Thursday, September 02, 2010


I find it interesting that things can be so hidden in plain sight.  How, once revealed, they seem so obvious and unmistakable.  Yet, they were unseen. 

I think God knows how much truth we can handle.  For a level of maturity, a season or even our whole lives.  He knows how easily we get overwhelmed.  Certainly, if he had shown me 20 years ago that this would be my life, I would have run screaming the other direction.  I wouldn't have felt capable.  I might have ended up in the belly of a whale.  Or something.  I am thankful He reveals little pieces at a time.  Because small pieces are still a lot to take in!  And, I'm grateful He is faithful to equip us for the journey He calls us to.  Even though I still wanna run screaming some days!  :)

There have been two overriding themes of God's work in my life the past couple years that have come into laser focus the last few months.  One centers around lies about God I have bought into.  Lies that I think are perpetuated by the church.  By 'the church,' I'm referring to the modern, American Christian church as a whole.  The other is about me.  Me, me, me, me, me and me.  Selfishness.  Interestingly enough, God has intertwined the two and revealed just how selfishly I view Him

The past few years, I've grown weary of church.  I don't mean the building or even the people.   I mean all the canned, Americanized answers for God.  All the legalism disguised and described as faith, obedience and blessings.   Everything tied up with a nice, neat little bow - while anything that doesn't fit in the little box gets ignored.  The idea that if we just do it all right enough then nothing but "blessings" will come into our lives.  That somehow if we live right enough, God will protect us from bad things.  The idea that somehow we earn what we get. 

The problem with this thinking is that A) Its not Biblical.  Minor detail.  We are not capable of doing it right enough.  Hence, Jesus!  B) We also have to own the reverse lie - that when bad things do happen, it must be because I wasn't righteous or obedient enough.   And C) That good/bad are measured merely by how it makes me feel.  If I don't like it, it must be bad and if I do like it or it makes me feel good, then it must be good (or a blessing).  Because no blessing of mine would show up feeling bad!

Do you see the selfishness wrapped up in this thinking?  Its all about ME!!  It shows itself in the way we view and handle difficulties, inconveniences and problems.  In the way we view the positive things in our lives - when we become prideful in believing that we somehow deserve the good we have.  In the way we pray, asking for what makes us feel good.  Even in the ways we worship - we want to feel good in worship, we want it to be entertaining or "right" enough for our standards!  In the way we view the role of church in our lives.  Isn't it frequently about what we can get out of it?  How it makes us feel, what activities they provide for us or our children; how entertained we are during the services.  How much we like the people. We expect the church to teach us all we need to know about the Lord.  We want to show up on Sunday, have a nice time, feel good, look good and go home without an ounce of energy to expend in our relationship with God.  All the while, expecting nothing but blessings to rain down.  Because as Americans, we are into the idea of convenience.  In all things.  Including our faith.  Our churches have bought into it as well - they entertain us, so we'll show up.  They provide more and more activities so our kids will show up.  They water down the Scriptures so it feels good - and we don't have to be convicted.  Its a vicious cycle!  When the teaching doesn't come back around to reveal the selfishness that grips our hearts, we end up with even more of it!  And the cycle continues.

That's not to say there aren't profound blessings when we live according to God's will.  I believe there are also difficult consequences that result from living outside of His will.  But, being a Christian isn't so much about following rules or feeling good - its about a relationship with a Savior that we can't live without! Its about living in accordance with what He has called us to, as unique individuals.  To live out the priorities He has in mind for us - whether they are convenient and cozy or not!  About living our lives in a way that brings glory to God, even if it means something less than pleasure for us.  About living out our faith, rather than expecting it to live out in spite of us!  It isn't always pretty.  It doesn't always feel good.  I believe that God IS good and that His plans are only for good.  But good in our economy is so different from God's!  The Bible says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD."  Isaiah 55:8  Just because something doesn't feel good to us, doesn't mean it is not good!  Our emotions are fickle and untrustworthy!  We cannot rely on them to guide our faith.  If we trust that God is good, then we trust it when blessings overflow AND in our deepest pains.  Even when our human minds can't begin to comprehend our circumstances as good.

I struggled after Jordan was born with this whole concept.  That somehow Jordan having Down Syndrome and a heart defect was a result of my sins.  It was all about ME.  I always knew it wasn't a mistake.  That God wasn't looking down, saying, "Uh.Oh!"  But, it didn't occur to me until a few years later that God may have specific purposes in creating her the way He did.  Purposes bigger than my wants and desires.  Plans to bring glory to Himself.  He began to reframe it for me - to reveal that being Jordan's mom was a privilege - not just because I love her - but because I get a front row seat to see His hand at work. 
I struggle again with Jackson's death.  Differently this time, but still with the selfishness.  I can't help but wonder, Why?  Why even create him in the first place?  Its easy to stand back and look at our culture and see the entitlement mentality; the pervasive consummation with self.  But, to stand back and see it in my faith?  Wow, that was hard.  God has graciously given me a glimpse of His purposes with Jackson.  A purpose that I could not have imagined in a million years.  And, here's the kicker ... it has absolutely nothing to do with ME!!!  Don't think that little revelation didn't send me into a tailspin.  On the one hand, I was praising God for revealing purpose for my precious little boy.  Purpose in why He created Jackson - and purpose in why he died when he did.  What a gift!!  An expected, beautiful gift that I wouldn't have even asked for.  And yet, at the end of it, I was left with this ... How can this NOT be about ME?  He's MY baby! 

I don't have all the answers.  I can't explain it away.  I certainly can't wrap it up in a nice neat little package that feels good for me or anyone else.  All I know is that not everything is about me.  Even when it feels like it should be.  At the end of the day, its all about God bringing about His plans, His purposes and receiving His glory!  And since God has chosen this journey for us, I want to walk it out in a way that honors Him!  A way that glorifies Him.   

Reading is always therapeutic for me and here are a couple books that are helping me work some of this out.

I recently finished Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl
by Lysa TerKeurst - I highly recommend it.  Especially if you're like me and fed up with canned, feel-good Christianity.

I've also started Radical by David Platt.  This one will rock your world!  Its a MUST READ for every believer!!!!

We need a fresh look at Christianity.  At God.  God has so much more in store than just US!  I don't know about you, but I'm kinda tired of ME!


stephanie said...

wow angela, thanks for sharing. that was truly what i needed to hear this morning. i have always believed in you as one gal who can accomplish so i am thinkin you may have to add writing a book to the list : ) (or i suppose the blog works too) & thanks for the book recommendations!

Doree said...

Thanks Angela for sharing your heart in Cyber space! This post really ministered to me today!! I am so over the "American view" of church....Can't wait to hear more! :)

Anonymous said...

Have I told you that I wish we lived closer? You have a way of speaking right to my heart, Angela. Thank you so much for being so candid. It touches me, and I'm sure others, in ways that you may never know.


Our Walk Through Life said...

Thank you so much for sharing what God is doing in your life. This was so very refreshing to read - you're honesty and not having all the answers I am relieved by. Does that make sense? I am just relieved that someone is sharing openly about Christ...You were a breath of fresh air to me tonight!